Over the last few months, The Voice Newspaper has been encouraging the Black community to participate in the Black British Voices Project online survey (www.bbvp.org).
The national survey was launched earlier this summer as part of a wider research project investigating the “evolution of Black British identities”.
The team behind it says the research will give Black people in the UK an opportunity to “define themselves in an autonomous way” for the very first time.
Recognising the major role that the church and Christian faith play in the black community, the team are also keen to hear the voice of black Christians and their views on the ‘evolution of Black British identities’.
The Black British Voices Project (BBVP) is a partnership between the University of Cambridge’s Sociology Department; Britain’s only national Black newspaper The Voice Newspaper, and black-led consultancy I-Cubed Ltd. Their aim is to provide an updated portrait of Black Britishness – and British Blackness – for the 21st century.
The research is led by Cambridge sociologist and author Dr. Kenny Monrose, the only Black researcher in the Department of Sociology at Cambridge University.
The team said:
The narrative of being black in Britain has been written and rewritten by so many different people, but what we’ve yet to hear and see is a commentary built on good data that draws on themes that matter to Black people today.
Today, Black Britons are still largely misunderstood and misrepresented in many facets of life. We must manage and communicate our own narrative on how it feels to be Black and British.
The survey covers issues from business and religion, health to media, youth, and education. It builds on focus group sessions Dr. Monrose conducted at the end of last year, as the pandemic surged into its second wave.
Dr. Monrose said: “Terms like BAME are too shorthand, too easy, and makes us even more invisible.” For Monrose, it’s one of the reasons why research like BBVP is long overdue. BAME is another in a parade of imposed labels, from Afro-Caribbean or coded terms such as ‘urban’ or indeed Black British itself. Black people are not a standardised or uniform group. We felt it was past time to actually go and ask Black people themselves.”
For the generations who lived through the seventies and eighties – a “crucible” for UK race relations, says Monrose – many Black people defined themselves by their heritage. “I would have said I’m St Lucian, because we didn’t feel allowed to be British – and many people still don’t. I’m only called an Englishman when I’m in the Caribbean,” he said.
One of the central aims of the research will be to chart such fluctuations, and the changing nature of Blackness in contemporary Britain.
“Young Black people in particular get spoken about, but they don’t often get spoken to,” said Monrose. “We aim to listen.”
Alongside the national survey and focus groups, Monrose has completed dozens of in-depth interviews with Black people across British society – from activists and politicians to LGBTQ+ Church of England members.
He says the interviews can be emotional.
Some people ran away from their Blackness, and encountered a lot of self-loathing. But people are desperate to talk about this. We want to unpack deep-seated feelings and sentiments about the Black British experience, and show that we are not a uniform or homogeneous group.
We can use this information to transform the perception of Black people in this country, and help share an authentic and reliable version of Black British life with policy and decision makers.
Written By: Marcia Dixon